Jimbo Fisher's departure from Florida State ends a relationship that was both beneficial to the program and tumultuous from the inception. He demanded control of virtually every detail of the football program, and in exchange he delivered results the school had yearned for since the halcyon days of the 1990s.
Fisher arrived at Florida State as the offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting in 2007, and his unflinching perfectionism forced an outdated program to confront the realities of big-time football in the 21st century. He took command of an athletics department that had grown stale after decades of success under Bobby Bowden. He pushed for massive infrastructure improvements for locker rooms and strength and conditioning facilities. He demanded an indoor practice facility that many of the folks writing the checks at Florida State thought wasn't worth the investment. In short, Fisher's micromanagement injected new life into a moribund program and brought Florida State back to relevancy on the national stage.
Fisher's tenure was not without controversy. There were numerous incidents involving Seminoles players under his watch, including sexual assault allegations against Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston. Fisher stood by Winston at every turn, both during the sexual assault allegations and when he was suspended for shouting a vulgarity in the school cafeteria, which exacerbated tensions between the coach and administration.
In his wake, Fisher left a parade of hurt feelings, bad blood and frustrated administrators, boosters and staff, who felt they could never do quite enough to keep their head coach happy. In the end, a losing season and another round of demands proved too much, and Fisher's final game of chicken in Tallahassee ended with such devastating damage, that there was no sense in attempting repair.
In eight years as head coach, Fisher had a working relationship with athletic director Stan Wilcox, but Fisher's relationship with Seminole Boosters president Andy Miller was strained by Fisher's constant demands. The problem, however, was more that Fisher had done little to gain allies over the years, and when the power dynamic shifted this season, few people were willing to stick up for the coach.
So what exactly did Fisher want? That's a nagging question. Facility upgrades are already in the works, although Fisher offered frustration that FSU hadn't kept pace with burgeoning brands like Clemson. The money was already good, with Fisher owning a $40 million buyout, but Texas A&M was willing to pay even more. Fisher made huge gains in salary for his assistants over the years, but this staff struggled badly over the past two seasons, from an embarrassing 63-20 loss to Louisville in 2016 to this season's 5-6 record. Changes were imminent, whether Fisher wanted them or not.
More than anything, however, Fisher simply wanted. He wanted something more in 2013 when Texas made overtures. He wanted something more in 2016 when LSU showed interest. He wanted more this season when it became clear he was Texas A&M's top target. And at some point, Florida State was simply tired of giving.
It was a fire that began with sparks lit during the pinnacle of Fisher's success, but as the program dipped in recent seasons, the flames grew and grew. By last week, the situation had become a raging inferno.
"He gave us a kick in the ass at a time when we needed our asses kicked," one FSU staffer said. But after eight years, it felt less like a push toward progress and more a carrot being dangled ever farther out of reach.
Fisher reportedly wanted to stay on to coach Florida State's final regular-season game against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday, a game rescheduled from Week 2 that, for what it's worth, would've brought his season record to .500 with a victory. But the situation reached a boiling point in recent days, as players expressed frustration at a lack of commitment from Fisher to stick with the program, and the optics hit a nadir Wednesday when a fan questioned Fisher's loyalty during his weekly radio call-in show and was physically escorted from the building.
By then it was clear that there was no salvaging the relationship. Fisher had burned some already rickety bridges, and the prospect of a fresh start for both coach and school appeared the only logical end point.
For Fisher, that means a move to the SEC, where he'll have yearly battles with his mentor, Nick Saban, the man whose own perfectionism serves as the template for Fisher's approach.
For Florida State, a wealth of options should be open. This isn't the same place it was when Fisher arrived, taking over in an equally messy scenario from Bowden. He brought Florida State back to relevance. He made necessary improvements to ensure the Seminoles could compete with anyone. He stocked a roster with blue-chip talent.
There was a cost to all that. It was, to be sure, a cost Florida State was happy to pay until Fisher raised the price one last time.